April 27, 2011
Ask any Detroit Tigers fan what he or she thinks of Ryan Raburn's(notes) outfield defense and you see a person scrunch their face, clench their teeth, pull their hair, or flat-out just wave their hands and walk away.
Though statistical evidence says Raburn is a good defensive outfielder, the general perception is that he's terrible. That's because he's made some spectacular gaffes, the kind that cannot be easily erased from memory.
As you might expect, Raburn thinks he gets a bad rap and believes he'd improve with more repetitions in the outfield. (In fairness, he's also made some great plays, such as when he robbed Michael Young(notes) of a home run two weeks ago.) But after the blunder he committed during Tuesday's 7-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners, Raburn may never shake his reputation as a defensive butcher.
In the top of the second inning, Miguel Olivo(notes) hit a deep drive to left field that looked like it might be trouble for the Tigers. Perhaps an extra-base hit. Raburn was playing shallow and had to sprint back toward the fence. Maybe he was running a bit too hard, actually. Because when Raburn reached up for the ball, it bounced off his glove and went over the fence for a home run.
Immediately, Raburn's outfield botch called to mind Jose Canseco's infamous play from 1993 when he let a ball bounce off his head and over the fence.
But at least Canseco was at the fence. Look at the picture above. Raburn was a step away from the warning track when Olivo's ball hit his glove. He hit it back in the air, as if it was a volleyball. However, the ball did hit Raburn's glove, as opposed to his head, so he should probably get credit for that.
MLB.com highlighted the play as a "Must C" clip. In this case, they said the "C" stood for "carom" and "curious." But it just as easily could stand for "clumsy," "cringe" or "calamity."
After the play, Raburn looked in his glove, perhaps hoping that he actually made the catch and avoided yet another teeth-clenching, hair-pulling mishap. Or maybe he was cursing his bad luck. That seems to be the only luck Raburn has in the outfield.
Maybe Jim Leyland really knew what he was doing when he decided to play Raburn more at second base. At least he can't smack the ball over the fence from there.
Screen caps from MLB.TV.